Did you ever hear about the expression 'Resilient cities'? Perhaps you did. This is the theme of the latest campaign by UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) started in 2010 and ongoing until 2015 and beyond. "Another one of those campaigns". Well, don’t be surprised if UNISDR will do it again. With their earlier campaign on ‘Safe schools and hospitals; UNISDR have managed to mobilize action on the ground in an unexpected way. The Resilient Cities campaign can easily become the biggest thing UNISDR has ever done. Cities are quickly becoming the scene for increasingly nasty disasters, and they are - don't be surprised - mostly human made, and the problem is not going away. 70 % of the world’s population will live in cities in 2030. The main causes of disasters are described more in detail in The World Disasters Report 2010 by IFRC1: building in more and more risky places, not robust enough to withstand natural hazards, making humans increasingly vulnerable. Just picture yourself a coastal city with high influx of people settling in unplanned shanty towns. The storms and floods have always been there, we are just building our houses closer to them, without a real choice for many poor people. But solutions are not about technical fix, its more about good governance. Just compare the disaster after the Haiti earthquake in February 2010 with the similar magnitude of earthquake in Chile the same year. In Chile, for example, building codes saved lives. This illustrates the distressing finding that mortality risk from disasters is approximately 225 times greater in low-income countries compared to OECD countries2.
So, not dealing with risk is a social and financial risk. Also ecosystems are negatively affected by disasters. But not dealing with risks properly can also be a political risk, which politicians are painfully aware of, as seen by the recent resignation of the Japanese Prime Minister after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The resilient cities campaign is therefore driven by Mayors who want to make their cities safer and: 1) Know More 2) Invest Wisely 3) Build More Safely. There are about 800 cities already signed up as of August 2011 and the number is increasing like wildfire.
Photo from the discussion on August 26th with Margareta Wahlström and the SWH cluster group for Water and DRR
The Swedish House cluster group on Water and Disaster Risk Reduction met on the 26th August during the World Water Week with Margareta Wahlström, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction to discuss areas where the cluster group could contribute to the work of UNISDR and in particular the Resilient Cities campaign. There was a very interesting discussion and with many ideas for future work. The group will in the next steps aim to involve the private sector and the financial / insurance sectors to discuss risk considerations in city growth.
1. International Federation for the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies
2. Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2011